Our impact, their voices

Women entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe strive for a brighter future

A new generation of female African entrepreneurs is beginning to spring up across the continent. In Zimbabwe, an ILO project is improving living conditions of women and their families in rural areas by promoting entrepreneurship.

Feature | 19 April 2017
HARARE (ILO News) – The future is indeed looking brighter for Mary Tarudana from the Nyanga district in the Eastern province of Manicaland.

From being seen as an object of pity in her community, she has become a successful entrepreneur, admired by everyone. She has bought small livestock, can now pay her children’s school fees without borrowing, and electricity has been installed in her home.

Mary Tarudana is one of the beneficiaries of the Joint UN Programme for Gender Equality (JPGE). She was helped by the ILO sponsored part of the JPGE, which is funded by the Government of Sweden.

When the project began in 2014, Tarudana, who comes from a very poor family, was selected as a beneficiary. While her family managed to eke out a living from subsistence farming, she was unable to offer her children and husband the life she believed they deserved. Her family had fallen behind in paying school fees and also owed money to members of their community.

Part of Mary Tarudana's onion harvest
Together with 60 other women, Tarudana took part in a two-week training course in horticulture production (potatoes, beans and onions). She learned about the soil types, the main crop diseases, harvesting and post-harvest storage and how to use the appropriate fertiliser. There was also a gender equality component to help women feel more respected within their communities.

Tarudana started to grow onions and when she harvested her first produce, she was able to pay off these debts. A new life in which she would have enough money to support her family had become possible.

After the first harvest, Tarudana invested back into the project and bought a larger quantity of onion seeds to increase her yield. From that second crop, she harvested over 4 000 kgs of onions, with a market price of $5 for a 22kg pack. She made a profit of $1,100, which she mostly used to meet her family’s needs.

This new income allowed her to benefit from a rural electrification project and have electricity at home.

“Now I know that when I leave the project site, which is my workplace, I do not need to worry about having to search for firewood. I will be able to just come into my house and turn on a switch,” she said proudly.

290 people already directly benefited from the JPGE project, while 2,400 people were also positively impacted"

Hopolang Phororo, ILO Director for Zimbabwe and Namibia

Another positive outcome was for her daughter. “She no longer needs to go and collect firewood in isolated wooded areas alone, which is better for her safety. Also, the time that she saves can now be used for her school work,” she added.

In addition, all her children can now read their school books without straining their eyes by using candles.

Tarudana also highlighted how having electricity at home helped reduce negative influences on her children.

From subsistence farming to entrepreneurship

‘Previously, I knew that my children would sometimes pass by the shops and peek into bars, which have televisions. One of my biggest fears was that they would be comfortable in those surroundings and then become vulnerable to abuse. Now, I am planning to buy a television for my family to reduce exposure for them.”

Participation in the JPGE project has provided Tarudana with opportunities she would never had dreamt of. The family no longer relies on subsistence crops and money earned through casual labour in the neighbourhood.

“A total of 290 people already directly benefited from the JPGE project, while 2,400 people were also positively impacted in the five districts of Gutu, Chivi, Murewa, Mutoko and Nyanga,” said Hopolang Phororo, the ILO Director for Zimbabwe and Namibia.

“The ILO is implementing the third pillar of the project which focuses on women’s economic empowerment and providing better working and living conditions for communities. This is a key component to promote the wider goal of improving women’s empowerment and gender equality in Zimbabwe,” she concluded.